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Rookie TE Zach Gentry feeling the effects of the NFL learning curve

The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight end is learning how different the NFL game is compared to college.

NFL: JUL 26 Steelers Training Camp Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers needed help at the tight end position heading into the 2019 season, and they failed to make any significant moves in that department. They let Jesse James depart via free agency to the Detroit Lions, didn’t sign a free agent at the position and ignored tight end until they drafted Zach Gentry out of Michigan in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Realistic fans understood the gravity of going into a season with Vance McDonald as your TE1 on the depth chart, Xavier Grimble as TE2 and an untested rookie as a possible TE3. But as Gentry is learning, his spot on the 53-man roster is anything but certain at this point. The learning curve from college football to the NFL is often steep.

“There’s obviously a learning curve when you’re first coming in, especially with a guy as tall as me,” Gentry told Hunter Homistek of DKPittsburghSports after Day 6 of training camp. “So I’ve really had to focus on getting my pad level down and firing out ... I know everybody always says the same thing, but it’s the speed and physicality. It’s just the next step up in every single way. People are not lying when they say that, for sure.”

However, despite the learning curve, Gentry feels as if he is getting better every day with the help of teammates and coaches. After all, for someone who is 6-feet 9-inches tall, getting your pad level low isn’t always the easiest task. Sure, this is something coaches and fans will say with confidence regarding how a player should play, but sometimes it is easier said than done.

“First couple practices, like I said, I needed to get my pads lower,” Gentry said. “I needed to kind of get used to getting down low and firing off a little harder. [But I’m] definitely getting better at that every day.”

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume Gentry’s struggles result in him not making the team. Who would be the third tight end on the roster? Would they possibly go into the season with just two tight ends? Highly doubtful.

Kevin Rader
Christian Scotland-Williamson
Trevor Wood

Those are the other names of players who could fill the TE3 spot on the depth chart if Gentry fails to get the job done and make the team. Either way, Gentry’s struggles, or successes, don’t mitigate the team’s overall lack of depth at the position, and blatant unwillingness to address it this offseason.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the black-and-gold as they prepare for their first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field next Friday.